The nightmare is over. When I open my eyes, there’s nothing but darkness.
I’m in a bed, that much I can tell, and it’s not my own. The mattress is enormous, somehow contoured perfectly to my body, and for a moment I wonder if my friends moved me to one of the bigger beds in Nine’s penthouse. I stretch my legs and arms out as far as they’ll go and can’t find the edges. The sheet draped over me is more slippery than soft, almost like a piece of plastic, and it is radiating heat. Not just heat, I realize, but also a steady vibration that soothes my sore muscles.
How long have I been asleep, and where the heck am I?
I try to remember what happened to me, but all I can think of is my last vision. It felt like I was in that nightmare for days. I can still smell the burned-rubber stench of Washington, D.C. Smog clouds lingered over the city, a reminder of the battle fought there. Or the battle that will be fought there, if my vision actually comes true.
The visions. Are they part of a new Legacy? None of the others have Legacies that leave them traumatized in the morning. Are they prophecies? Threats sent by Setrákus Ra, like the dreams John and Eight used to have? Are they warnings?
Whatever they are, I wish they’d stop happening.
I take a few deep breaths to clean the smell of Washington out of my nostrils, even though I know it’s all in my head. What’s worse than the smell is that I can remember every little detail, right down to the horrified look on John’s face when he saw me on that stage with Setrákus Ra, condemning Six to death. He was trapped in the vision, too, just like I was. I was powerless up there, stuck between Setrákus Ra, self-appointed ruler of Earth, and …
Five. He’s working for the Mogadorians! I have to warn the others. I sit bolt upright and my head swims – too fast, too soon – rust-colored blobs floating through my vision. I blink them away, my eyes feeling gummy, my mouth dry and throat sore.
This definitely isn’t the penthouse.
My movement must trigger some nearby sensor, because the room’s lights slowly grow brighter. They come on gradually, the room eventually bathed in a pale red glow. I look around for the source of the light and discover it pulsing from veins interwoven through the chrome-paneled walls. A chill goes through me at how precise the room looks, how severe, lacking any decoration at all. The heat from the blanket increases, almost as if it wants me to curl back up beneath it. I shove it away.
This is a Mogadorian place.
I crawl across the mammoth bed – it’s bigger than an SUV, big enough for a ten-foot-tall Mogadorian dictator to comfortably relax in – until my bare feet dangle over the metal floor. I’m wearing a long gray nightgown embroidered with thorny black vines. I shudder, thinking about them putting me into this gown and leaving me here to rest. They could’ve just killed me, but instead they put me in pyjamas? In my vision, I was sitting alongside Setrákus Ra. He called me his heir. What does that even mean? Is that why I’m still alive?
It doesn’t matter. The simple fact is: I’ve been captured. I know this. Now what am I going to do about it?
I figure the Mogs must have moved me to one of their bases. Except this room isn’t like the horrific and tiny cells that Nine and Six described from when they were captured. No, this must be the Mogadorians’ twisted idea of hospitality. They’re trying to take care of me.
Setrákus Ra wants me treated more like a guest than a prisoner. Because, one day, he wants me ruling next to him. Why, I still don’t understand, but right now it’s the only thing keeping me alive.
Oh no. If I’m here, what happened to the others in Chicago?
My hands start to shake and tears sting my eyes. I have to get out of here. And I have to do it alone.
I push down the fear. I push down the lingering visions of a decimated Washington. I push down the worries about my friends. I push it all down. I need to be a blank slate, like I was when we first fought Setrákus Ra in New Mexico, like I was during my training sessions with the others. It’s easiest for me to be brave when I just don’t think about it. If I act on instinct, I can do this.
Run, I imagine Crayton saying. Run until they’re too tired to chase you.
I need something to fight them with. I look around the room for anything I can use as a weapon. Next to the bed is a metallic nightstand, the only other furniture in the room. The Mogs left a glass of water there for me, which I’m not dumb enough to drink even though I’m insanely thirsty. Next to the glass, there’s a dictionary-sized book with an oily, snaky-skin cover. The ink on the cover looks singed, the words indented and rough around the edges, as if it were printed with acid for ink.
The title reads The Great Book of Mogadorian Progress, surprisingly in English. Under it are a series of angular boxes and hash marks that I assume is Mogadorian.
I pick up the book and open it. Each page is divided in half, English on one side and Mogadorian on the other. I wonder if I’m supposed to read this thing.
I slam the book closed. The important thing is that it’s heavy and I can swing it. I won’t be turning any Mogadorian guards into ash clouds, but it’s better than nothing.
I climb down from the bed and walk over to what I think is the door. It’s a rectangular panel cut into the plated wall, but there aren’t any knobs or buttons.
As I tiptoe closer, wondering how I’m going to open this thing, there’s a mechanical whirring noise from inside the wall. It must be on a motion sensor like the lights, because the door hisses upward as soon as I’m close, disappearing into the ceiling.